"The 'C' students run the world"

26.07.23 02:31 AM By Stormrake

The 33rd President of the United States, Harry S Truman is credited with the quote "The 'C' students run the world". Truman was incredible at understanding people and communication. A keen student of human psychology Truman, knew every white house employee by name including the gardeners and kitchen staff. 

His observation was that great leaders tended to come from - "average" high school students. "A" students make excellent employees but to be truly great you have to be able to push boundaries and challenge the establishment and "C" students tend to have that ability while "F" students can certainly challenge but probably don't have the talent required. To be a great entrepreneur for example you need both brains and the ability to think outside the box.

In this article we will do something quite different and take a look at whether this quote is really true.

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Schooling and Success

The quote above was attributed to Mark Twain but there is some conjecture as to whether he actually said it first. Schooling and Education are really not the same. Education is incredibly important and required for success, but education can be attained through various tools, and schooling is but one of those tools. The quote actually suggests that schooling could be negative for your education. If a disinterested teacher destroys a students love for a given subject this could affect their education in a really negative way. 

Einstein was quoted in the New York Times, loosely echoing Mark Twain's sentiment in saying that schooling can actually hurt the natural curiosity of children when done in the wrong way. Einstein himself, touted as the worlds smartest man ever, actually struggled with his schooling. At one point teachers thought he was wasting his time in school and should just leave to learn a trade. How wrong they were!

Richard Branson, Virgin founder and life-long entrepreneur was a high school drop out who was committed to education but not schooling. He always felt schooling stunted his creativity and drove conformity to behavioural standards without allowing for free thought and challenging the curriculum. 

Successful author, entrepreneur and Bitcoin investor Robert Kyosaki wrote a book called "Why "A" students work for "C" students and he hit the nail on the head. "A" students tend to be conformists and buy into the status quo career path. They make excellent employees because they can work within a system set for them and do it well. However their boss is usually a eccentric, entrepreneurial, former C student who pushes the boundaries and challenges the rules that govern our society and economy.

Life Long Education 

Even making the decision of which student should go to the next level or qualify for a scholarship or an extension program is hard. Steven Spielberg, widely seen as the standard for cinematography and directing was himself 3 times rejected from USCS Cinematic Arts. He didn't have the best grades. Was that because he was no good or was the schooling system not designed to recognise greatness. Incidentally, Spielberg went back and finished College later in life as a gift to his parents.

Great Students that also had Genius

Adam Back (Pictured above) was the inventor of proof of work, an early Bitcoin engineer and current Blockstream CEO. Like most early Bitcoiners he was both entrepreneurial  and a great student. Working with something like cryptography requires organisation, brains and inventiveness. Hal Finney (Cal-tech)  and even Michael Saylor (MIT) have stellar resumes that started with high school prowess. 


While success in schooling is no guarantee of success in life and failure in schooling is no guarantee of failure in life, education is still important. Examples abound (Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, JK Rowling etc) of entrepreneurs and CEO's making it big without a high school diploma or a very poor record, but if we are being honest it is still probably the exception to the rule. 

As we wrap this up in a neat bow, we go to legendary sports coach John Wooden who actually coached President Truman and JW said "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts". The key to take out from the thoughts of Einstein, Mark Twain and John Wooden is that education doesn't stop with school, or even university. Education is for life no matter what walk of life you are from. 

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The information in this newsletter is general only. It should not be taken as constituting professional advice from the author - Stormrake PTY LTD.
Stormrake is not a financial adviser and does not provide financial product advice. You should consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice to check how the information relates to your unique circumstances. Stormrake is not liable for any loss caused, whether due to negligence or otherwise arising from the use of, or reliance on, the information provided directly or indirectly, by this newsletter.


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